Egypt will always be a “bucket list” country. Many travelers dream of seeing the Great Pyramids of Giza one day or exploring the Valley of the Dead, but people are now passing over this beautiful country out of fear that it isn’t safe.
While you need to keep general precaution while in Egypt, there is not a better time to visit than now because everything is so cheap and the sights are deserted. Imagine walking amongst the Pyramids without crowds of other tourists and snagging a bargain Nile cruise from Aswan to Luxor.
In fact, few would consider it, but Egypt is a great country for solo travelers and a treat for those that dare to look passed its media portrayal. Solo Travelers to Egypt will find a welcoming culture, addictive culinary treats, and far more history than one could hope to uncover in a whole lifetime. But if you decide to, it could be one of the most rewarding adventures of your life. Think you can do it?
Here are fifteen tips to help the solo travelers to Egypt:
- Pick up a SIM card at the airport or in Cairo.
SIM cards and data are very cheap in Egypt, so definitely pick one if you are traveling here solo so that you can have access to Google Maps when you are on-the-go. Likely you will be spending a lot of time in a car or taxi, and as a foreigner, it will give you an added comfort to know if you are going in the correct general direction.
- Download UBER.
UBER is huge right now in Egypt, especially in Cairo where experiences with taxi drivers can vary. For the most part, UBERs are cheaper than regular taxis, they have air conditioned vehicles, and the drivers often speak a little bit of English. Even if you decide not to use UBER, it is especially useful when you are at the airport. Just log into the application and take a screenshot of the estimate of the fare from the airport to your destination. Show this to the regular taxi drivers to bring down their rate.
- Bring sunglasses and a scarf.
This goes for both men and women, but the benefits will especially help single traveling ladies. Eye contact is intimate in Egypt, so it contributes to wear sunglasses to avoid unwanted advances and to keep salespersons from trying to sell you something every five seconds. A scarf will be necessary for women to cover their hair when visiting a mosque, and will also help if there is a sandstorm to keep dust out of your nose and mouth. Both of these will contribute to give a more “covered” appearance which is valued in Egypt.
- Check out a weekend tour or group day trip.
It is hard to meet Egyptians and other travelers as a single person in Egypt. The drinking culture is more reserved, and people stay within their groups when out and about. A fantastic way to meet people would be to attend a group weekend or a day tour from Cairo. There are many options available and easy to find via Facebook groups in Egypt. The people who attend these are primarily Egyptian. So it is also an excellent way to get to know people and learn more about the culture in an informal setting.
- Book tours while in the country.
If you are going to do any tour, ranging from a day mini retreat to a grand Nile cruise, wait until you are in Egypt to make your bookings. The cost will be significantly less, and in the case of Nile cruises, you will be able to look at the boat first to make sure it is to your liking. Don’t worry about everything being sold out; right now there is more than enough room on nearly all tours.
- Plan ahead: know when popular attractions are open.
Nothing is worse than spending all that time in traffic to find out that the attraction you wanted to see was closed. It happens here a lot more than you think. The Egyptian Museum in Cairo is open daily from 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. and it closes two hours early during Ramadan. The Pyramids are open from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. daily, and it is better to go earlier to avoid the heat. Almost everything, from restaurants to stores, is closed on Fridays from noon to 1:00 p.m. for the prayer. (This is an excellent time to walk around, as the streets are empty, and you can get a glimpse of a few prayer services).
- Learn this word: “the Red Sea”.
It sounds like “shoe-kraun”. It means “thank you” in Arabic and is incredibly useful in nearly all interactions. Say “shoukran” to someone trying to sell you something if you are uninterested, and they will politely go away. Say “shoukran” after you’ve ordered your food and after you get out of a taxi. Egyptians will appreciate it and probably try to teach you more Arabic if you have the time. But if not, “shoukran” and you are quickly on your way!
- Learn some taxi etiquette.
At some point, you will likely take a regular taxi, and there are a few things you should keep in mind. Ladies: always sit in the back, NEVER in the front. Gentlemen: ALWAYS sit in the front. For men, it is considered rude if you sit in the back. But ladies should never sit in the front, regardless of the circumstance. Also, check the meter BEFORE you get in, and if it doesn’t work, find another taxi. Pay your fare AFTER you get out of the cab.
- It’s hard to meet locals, so look into events in advance.
Like it said in #4, it is hard to meet people in Egypt. Look into events hosted by popular bars and cafes to socialize with other people and learn something new. There are yoga and chakra classes, live music, and movie nights on just about every day of the week.
- Take a cue from the locals when walking around at night.
Not sure if you should be walking around at night? Take a cue from the locals to get a better feel of the neighborhood. Some areas are bustling with families until the early hours, while others are not. If you are alone in the street, it is best to take a cab home for the night.
- If you are ever in trouble, find a mosque or walk into a store.
This is especially true for women: if someone ever follows you or is bothering you, find a mosque or tell someone in a shop. Likely you will not have to go that far because other Egyptians will recognize what is going on pretty quickly and will come to help you. Feel free to ask for help. Egyptians are great hosts and are more than accommodating when helping out foreigners in any situation.
- Take a break from the cities.
Get out of Cairo and Luxor and experience a surprising part of Egypt: the beach! Egypt’s coastal towns at the Red Sea, like Marsa Allam and Dahab are far more chill and relaxed than its cities. Feel free to wear a bikini and drink beer on the beach, or even take a diving class! Some of the best dive sites in the world are in Egypt.
- Consider the poverty you will encounter.
Most people in Egypt will live below the poverty line, especially the people you meet selling souvenirs in Khan il-Khalili and the Pyramids. A lot of Egyptians give money to beggars, and they will try their luck with foreigners. Decide how you will approach it ahead of time. Leave a few LE coins in an easy to access place or only say “shoukran.”
- Ladies; join a Facebook group.
There are some great Facebook groups for women living in or traveling to Egypt. The communities are incredibly helpful and give you great up-to-date information that you would never find scouring the Internet or through blogs. Check out EWIC: Expat Women in Cairo.
- YouTube some Egyptian Arabic.
It is hard to get around Cairo by yourself without at least a little bit of Arabic. Learn some of the basics from a YouTube video; it is the best way for you to prepare yourself for an Egyptian vacation.
- Introduce your friends to a money transfer provider. Egypt is fantastic, and you will wish to experience as much as you can while you’re there. And once you’re there, you will wish to do many activities you haven’t done before. Visit attractions you’ve heard all about and taste some local food and drinks. However, all this together may cost you a fortune. That is why there is a chance you might miscalculate your initial traveling budget. On top of all, the fact that you’re traveling solo means that you cannot split costs with other people, so your wallet may be quickly emptied. These reasons are why you should introduce your friends to an individual money transfer provider, one that you can count on in any situation. For a fast and reliable service, we recommend you to try out HiFX. HiFX is an excellent way to transfer money without paying all those additional banking fees.
Have you ever been to Egypt? Would you want to be one of many Solo travelers to Egypt?